Monday, August 17, 2015

The Legend of the Qu’Appelle Valley

“I started up and bending o’ver my dead,
Asked when did her sweet lips in silence close.
“She called thy name—then passed away,” they said,
“Just at an hour when the moon arose.”

                                    --E. Pauline Johnson

In Canada there is a beautiful valley that stretches east to west across one third of the Sashatchewan province.

This valley called Qu’Appelle was in ancient times a glacial spillway but today is a popular spot for tourists who love the outdoors.

Qu'Appelle Valley

The first white settlers to this area in 1804 where fur traders and the North West Company.

One of these metis trappers was David Harmon who passed on a legend that the First Nation Crees told him in the 19th century of how the valley got its name.

The Cree call the valley “Katepwet” which was later translated into French “Qu'Appelle” which was the language the trappers spoke.

In English Qu’Appelle means, “Who calls?”

This name comes from the legend the Cree First Nation people recounted to Harmon.

This legend was then immortalized in a poem written by E. Pauline Johnson entitled, The Legend of the Qu’Appelle Valley.

The First Nation Indians whom believe in spirits believe this story is true.

Qu'Appelle River
This legend tells of a young Cree Indian brave who canoeing home from a hunt hears a voice call his name just as the moon rises in the east.

“Who calls?” he asks. He hears his name called once more but receives no response except the echo of his own voice—“Who calls?”

The next day he reaches his home only to find the beautiful young maiden he was to marry had died the evening before.

He was told with her dying breath she had called his name twice. He asked when and was told she called his name just as the moon arose.

So it was her voice he had heard.

The First Nation Indians who lived in the region told David Harmon they heard a voice as they traveled through the valley, they then would respond, “Who calls?”

Even today many claim to have heard as the moonrises the dying young woman’s call on the wind.

Johnson's Mohawk name
was Tekahionwake.

Here is the first stanza of Johnson’s poem.

“I am the one who loved her as my life,
Had watched her grow to sweet young womanhood;
Won the dear privilege to call her wife,
And found the world, because of her, was good.
I am the one who heard the spirit voice,
Of which the paleface settlers love to tell;
From whose strange story they have made their choice
Of naming this fair valley the “Qu’Appelle.”

The entire poem can be read here.

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